AUSTIN - The Austin City Council voted Thursday to negotiate with the State of Texas on the Texas Facilities Commission's plan that includes converting Congress Avenue, north of the Capitol, into the "Texas Mall", a pedestrian green space.
The Texas Facilities Commission adopted a master plan in 2016 to change the face of the Capitol complex.
The Texas Mall space will stretch from 15th Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The intersections at 15th, 16th and 18th Streets would still be open to vehicle traffic, but the other streets around Congress Avenue would be converted to two-way streets.
The Commission also wants to build new state office buildings and an underground parking garage that would be open to the public after hours.
The State is asking the Austin City Council for expedited permitting, street closures, street conversions and fee waivers to make the project happen.
Some council members said Thursday they are concerned about the timing of the request.
"I'm particularly concerned about the fact that we're talking about $6.9 million in unrealized revenue. Again which may be appropriate, but we have no time for public response to let us know what they think, nor do we have time ourselves to analyze that," said Council Member Ann Kitchen (District 5).
Council Member Ann Kitchen said the state needs a response by August, so she would like to see the city take a little more time.
Instead, a split council voted to approve negotiations on the deal. Council Members Kitchen and Ora Houston voted against an item on the agenda to begin negotiations. Council Members Delia Garza and Leslie Pool abstained from the vote and the others on the dais approved moving forward. Council Member Ellen Troxclair was absent.
The state plans to begin work excavating one of the lots later this summer.
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